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Interview


Covid-19: Taking care of the care sector


Editor Tim Probert talks to National Care Association executive chair Nadra Ahmed about the short and longer-term implications of Covid-19 on the sector


TCHE:How concerned are you about care homes potentially going out of business as a result of the pandemic? Ahmed:We were warning about this some time ago because our sector has been, for almost the past two decades, chronically underfunded. One of the reasons for that is our


sector has taken on more healthcare responsibility. We are not just looking after people who are retired ladies and gentlemen. We are looking after people with complex healthcare needs and therefore the funding that has been coming through has kind of missed the point. Because care has been chronically


underfunded, there was no resilience in the sector at the outset of the pandemic.


If we are honest there was little resilience in many sectors but certainly in this sector where we are looking after people who were going to be most affected. We already had some PPE in our


organisations because infection control is part of what we do. Suddenly suppliers were telling us they couldn’t send up any PPE because it had all been requisitioned for the NHS. That exposed the sector to infection


without adequate control and, of course, the early messages were that our sector didn’t need to worry. The guidance was very peculiar, very disturbing. Because PPE was being requisitioned


we had to go to the open market. That meant any resilience in the sector was expended by having to buy (PPE) at


extortionate prices in order to keep our staff and residents safe. That’s why we are now looking down the barrel of a gun at provider failure.


TCHE:We can’t have care homes simply shutting their doors, so what’s the answer? Ahmed:We need to have a rescue plan for the sector. That plan needs to include repaying some of that money people have used for PPE, or making a contribution, or zero rating. We need to be able to reclaim VAT that’s already been spent since the start of the pandemic. The second point is direct funding of


care instead of by third parties. Money has been given to local authorities (for the care sector) but our surveys clearly tell us the vast majority of them have not been in contact. There are some notable exceptions for which we are grateful. There needs to be ring-fenced


funding that comes forward, which goes directly to the front line and not via a third-party. But if it is going to a third party then we must be really clear that the vast majority of it is for the sector. We must only top-slice a small amount for administration because that is another challenge that we face on a regular basis. Thirdly, we need to start to send


people back in to care homes safely. People are frightened by what they are hearing about sending a loved one into the care service. Care homes are carrying vacancy rates that are unsustainable. We have got people telling us they


have 40% of their beds empty and this is continuing to increase. Clinical Commissioning Groups are suspending contracts they might have had for intensive care beds. Some people are just choosing not to come, some private- funders are choosing to stay at home. There is a lot of unmet need, which at some point could end up in some challenging scenarios. The three Rs of ‘rescue, recovery and resilience’ will be our mantra. We’re going


12 www.thecarehomeenvironment.com• June 2020


©Laurence Cawley/BBC


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